In Most Countries, 40 Hours + Minimum Wage = Poverty

Last week, we noted that Democratic lawmakers in the US are pushing for what they call “$12 by ’20” which, as the name implies, is an effort to raise the minimum wage to $12/hour over the course of the next five years. Republicans argue that if Democrats got their wish and the pay floor were increased by nearly 70%, it would do more harm than good for low-income Americans as the number of jobs that would be lost as a result of employers cutting back in the face of dramatically higher labor costs would offset the benefit that accrues to the workers who are lucky enough to keep their jobs. 

Regardless of who is right or wrong when it comes to projecting what would happen to low-wage jobs in the face of a steep hike in the minimum wage, one thing is certain: many working families depend on government assistance to make ends meet, suggesting it’s tough to persist on minimum wage in today’s economy and indeed, a new study by the OECD shows that in 21 out of the 26 member countries that have a minimum wage, working 40 hours per week at the pay floor would not be sufficient to keep one’s family out of poverty.

Here’s more from Bloomberg:

A global ranking out Wednesday by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development painted a grim picture of the situation in member countries straddling continents. The 34-member organization found that a legal minimum wage existed in 26 countries and crunched the numbers to see how they compared.

Forget taking a siesta in Spain. There, you’d have to work more than 72 hours a week to escape the trappings of poverty. Turns out that is the norm, not the exception. In the 21 countries highlighted with blue bars in the chart below, a full 40-hour work week still won’t lift families out of relative poverty. This list includes France, home to the 35-hour work week, which almost met the threshold. Minimum wage workers there who are supporting a spouse and two children need to work 40.2 hours to get their families out of poverty.  (The poverty line is defined as 50 percent of the median wage in any nation.)

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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